Resuming where the last one left off, both in story and intensity of violence, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is 122 minutes of action, killing and stunning visual storytelling. Keanu Reeves reprises his role of John Wick, the guy who goes on a mass killing spree after the Russian mafia kills his dog and steals his car. Though this may sound like a country music song, the previous movie ended with a high body count, which included death by pencil through the head.
In “Chapter 2,” Wick kills more Russians before making a simple deal with them: If they stop stealing his car then he will stop killing everyone who has an accent and a nice suit. After the one Russian left alive accepts this offer, Wick goes into a short-lived retirement. Italian crime heir, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Samarcio) arrives at Wick’s house and tries to hire Wick to assassinate D’Antonio’s sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Wick originally declines the offer, but D’Antonio forces his hand.
Wick comes out of his brief retirement to successfully complete the job, which opens a new can of worms. From this the entire rest of the film involves very little dialogue and insane amounts of killing in very brutal ways.
It is truly hard to underscore the level of violence and death in this film. I often asked myself, “Does Wick have to kill that many people?” I was reminded of my days in 90s playing Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. I could have avoided killing the baddies but why not shoot them, it’s a game right? Wick lives in an alternate reality where no one’s life matters.
Comparing Wick to other action heroes, he is truly an awful human being and very much an anti-hero. Even Liam Neeson spared a few people in “Taken” and they kidnapped his daughter, which is at a whole different level than taking someone’s car. Superheroes rarely kill anyone. Wick is no superhero.
Despite the copious amount of death and violence, the film does keep a grounded sense of reality. Wick often struggles with not having enough ammo, unlike most action heroes who somehow have unlimited ammo caches. He also gets hurt and limps and struggles, for at least a while, before magically healing.
The best part of the film is easily the cinematography. Wick lives in a beautifully shot and colorfully vibrant world framed by Guillermo del Toro’s main cinematographer, Dan Lausten. Similar to “La La Land,” Wick dances around a fantastical world hidden in plain sight, only people are trying to kill him instead of hiring him to act in a French film. The fight sequences are soundly choreographed and fast-paced and leave your heart racing.
What I loved about the film was the lack of CGI, which many action films now heavily rely on. The film is a throwback to films of the ‘80s that relied on rhythmic action or fighting sequences which progressed from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and not simple explosions, which play out as a deus ex machina to the next scene.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” may not be for the faint of heart, but for action film fans, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.
Stars: 3 out of 5